Organizers of the Student Café: Conversations for Change Initiative, a student-run group at The Ohio State University College of Social Work, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., in response to a special invitation from the White House.
Social Work students Colleen Dempsey, Sarah Tarrant, Emily Panzeri, and Danielle Smith, of the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, made the trip—and Tarrant represented the group on June 6 in the West Wing (she is seated at the far end of the table).
The meeting was a de-briefing on the “100 Youth Roundtables” Initiative.“ President Obama and his Senior Staff discussed issues regarding environmental regulations, community organizations, legislation that the President supports, and how to really make a difference as future leaders. Then, less than a month later, the group was invited back–this time to attend a panel discussion on youth civic engagement.
The students had the opportunity to connect with other young Americans from across the nation and share feedback from The Student Café: Conversations for Change event, held May 24 in Columbus, Ohio, and similar roundtable events. The Student Cafe was selected as one of ten from 350 youth roundtables across the United States to meet with President Obama and his Senior Staff about the importance of social services and the profession of social work. To follow up on the feedback generated, the President announced a new series that will run through the summer called “How to Make Change.”
"We were encouraged by President Obama and the White House staff to continue our advocacy efforts and communicate ideas and concerns to the White House,” said Tarrant. “ We hope this opportunity will create a platform for social work students to become engaged beyond the classroom on social and political issues."
The invitation to The White House is largely a result of the Student Café: Conversations for Change meeting, which brought together OSU students and lawmakers to generate meaningful conversations about health and human services. The event generated creative ideas for how to better serve the most vulnerable populations in Ohio and encourage students to become actively involved in the legislative process.
Sponsored by the Ohio State College of Social Work and the NASW Emerging Leaders program, the event invited Ohio State students and lawmakers to have roundtable conversations about budget-related issues within health and human services. There were seven roundtables that each represented departments in the Governor’s cabinet related to health and human services, including the Department of Job and Family Services, Department of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Mental Health, etc. The key themes generated from the conversations were the transition from institutionalized care toward more cost-effective alternatives, such as home and community-based care; support for programs with a focus on prevention, such as drug courts and early childhood interventions; and expansion of research-informed policy decisions that will translate into effective programs and services in the community.
Approximately seventy-five people attended with six Ohio legislators, including Senator Cafaro, Senator Tavares, Representative Burke, Representative Patmon, Representative Stinziano, and Representative Sykes, as well as legislative aides, students, faculty, and staff. The event encouraged students to take an active role in the legislative process by communicating innovative ideas and engaging in future-focused conversations with Ohio lawmakers.
Looks like it got the President’s attention!
For questions or becoming involved with this initiative, email TheStudentCafe@gmail.com.